Lake Holcombe School District budget woes headed for vote

2011-10-02T08:00:00Z Lake Holcombe School District budget woes headed for voteBy ALICIA YAGER| Chippewa Herald
October 02, 2011 8:00 am  • 

Citing facility maintenance costs, increased operation expenses and debt refinancing, the Lake Holcombe School Board will place two referenda on the ballot in November.

The tax levy increases requested by the district would total about $1.6 million.

School board President Corey Grape said one of the items up for vote is for $950,000 to cover the school’s facility renovation costs and to refinance existing debt.

The district aims to renovate the school’s science rooms and gymnasium.

“We need money to fix portions of the school that need to be fixed,” Superintendent Tom Goulet said. “We can't do that with our budget; it’s too expensive. And as far as taking care of our debt and maintaining refinancing, we have to be able to do that too.”

Grape said the district’s existing debt was converted to bonds that are coming due for payment, so this referendum item would allow the board to roll these bonds into the construction projects — making for one total debt.

The other referendum item is $685,000 to help offset operating expenses.

“Our projected (2012-2013) budget will be over income by $250,000,” Grape said.

This deficit stems from ever-increasing expenses, such as insurance and transportation, and decreasing student enrollment. State aid has not kept up with the district’s needs.

Goulet said the school board has cut about $287,000 from the next year’s budget. These include the employee benefit changes mandated by state law, such as increased insurance and retirement contributions.

However, further state aid cuts, estimated to be down about $292,000 for the district, outstrip these savings.

“That difference is pretty significant for a small rural district,” Grape said.

Other budget cuts include eliminating the district’s early retirement program, cutting three special education aides and reducing the superintendent and certain teachers to part-time status.

Lake Holcombe also co-ops with nearby Cornell and Bruce school districts on some classes and extracurricular activities to save more money.

“We've pretty much done what we could as far as the options are concerned,” Goulet said. “The only other option is to cut more programs. That's it.”

Is the school’s survival in question? Not yet, Goulet said, as Lake Holcombe’s problems are shared by many other small districts across the state. But there is a sense of urgency to solve the financial issues, especially with refinancing.

 Grape said after examining the available options, the board feels the referenda are the best solution for the district.

“We knew if we want to stay strong and competitive as a school we have to go to voters,” Grape said. “We’re trying to be proactive instead of reactive.”

But he admits it’s a tough sell, given the economic climate.

Grape said he personally has not heard any negative responses to the referenda, saying the community is aware of the school’s plight.

“I think the parents — myself included — understand the need,” Grape said. “Everyone’s economic situation is tight right now, but everyone understands where this is coming from. The school is the center of a small community.”

Copyright 2015 Chippewa Herald. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(25) Comments

  1. Merlin
    Report Abuse
    Merlin - October 17, 2011 2:50 pm
    Alleyoop said: "I suppose Eau Claire Area Schools has always been? Never Washington, Seymore, Hallie, etc.. They need money they just annex the closest town. Watch out Chippewa Falls."

    That has been a battle for many years. I believe it was one of the reasons Lake Hallie was formed to begin with. Chippewa wasn't much better in that regard if memory serves me.

    All options need to be on the table and the most fiscally responsible one that provides the best education wins out.
  2. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 13, 2011 7:35 am
    Thank God! Good Talk.
  3. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 12, 2011 5:06 pm
    So now you go back 50-60 years!?!?! You're not worth the time!
  4. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 12, 2011 3:30 pm
    I suppose Eau Claire Area Schools has always been? Never Washington, Seymore, Hallie, etc.. They need money they just annex the closest town. Watch out Chippewa Falls.
  5. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 12, 2011 12:29 pm
    Alleyoop - Eau Claire hasn't consolidated with another school district. What in the world are you referring to?
  6. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 12, 2011 6:54 am
    I don't want to seem ungrateful for the perspective from Cornell, however now it's just getting sad. If your from Holcombe, I'm from Spooner. Anyone who has any doubt, whatsoever regarding the increased cost of doing business after consolidation simply needs to talk to anyone in Eau Claire or any other formerly independent district and ask them how it has worked out. Just call, email, fax, text, snail mail, whatever. Remember this about statistcs: Figures never lie, but Liars Figure!
  7. MapleMan
    Report Abuse
    MapleMan - October 12, 2011 6:43 am
    This is always what I am afraid of when an article like this is written. Why are we so quickly making this what it is not? This is not about any other school but Lake Holcombe so lets leave the others out of it. Lets talk about the future not the past. Here ARE the FACTS! Your school board, elected by your school district believe this is the best solution to get us through the next 3 years. If you agree great vote yes, if you do not great vote no. Simple isn't it? Then lets move on from there!
  8. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 11, 2011 11:28 pm
    I was not making assumptions. You have stated several times "consolidation" which is totally different than a co-op which is what the football teams did. It was not "the start of a consolidation". You still have not provided any facts about consolidation and the costs/savings....likely because you have none. I've asked for examples several times and you are yet to produce. info_only is likely correct, there probably isn't anyone willing to "dance" with us anyway. Waiting for fact
  9. info_only
    Report Abuse
    info_only - October 11, 2011 9:17 pm
    "Thanks for the offer, we're flattered, our dance card is full." Alleyoop, I think you think that Spend Wisely is from Cornell. Pretty sure he/she is from Holcombe by the way I read it. I'm also pretty sure nobody is knocking on your door right now to "dance". Sorry if that sounds mean but it sounds like you are assuming somebody wants to consolidate with you. That's a pretty big assumption on your behalf. Worry about Holcombe okay. Your neighbors are doing just fine.

  10. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 11, 2011 5:07 pm
    Spend Wisely? You must have implied the consolidation I spoke of was total. That happens when you assume too much. Consolidation is a process, that can start with sports. In the case four years ago, a well subsidized one. After the incentive money was gone, along with our majority, our school, and our sense of community, we would be right back in the same boat, only now we had the luxury of rowing with your anchor in the water. Thanks for the offer, we're flattered, our dance card is full.
  11. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 11, 2011 4:34 pm
    The story is about the end of a football co-op between Birchwood & Weyerhaueser because Weyerhaueser consolidated with Chetek. This in no way backs up any of your statements about costs of consolidating and ytou claiming money will not be saved. The Lake Holcombe administration showed a savings of over $680,000 if a consolidation would have happened four years ago. This is mainly from efficiency savings of fewer staff. Get the facts!
  12. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 11, 2011 4:08 pm
    Sorry for the confusion here is the link:
    It started with football, the Wildcats and the Bobcats became the "Cats" and again one set of figures were presented to promote the venture, another became the reality.
    Consolidation talk results from the inability of two separate communities to realize the existing or potential value and contribution of their respective schools. Weakness of their respective leadership enables this.
  13. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 11, 2011 3:18 pm
    Birchwood did not consolidate with Weyerhaueser, so again, what are your facts based on? School financials are available on the DPI website and the expenses you claim are not shown in the financials of the schools that have consolidated. Stop trying to prevent a better education for the students based on your opinions.
  14. Sauerwein
    Report Abuse
    Sauerwein - October 11, 2011 12:48 pm
    Wow!! It seems all the unknowns have a lot of opinions...

    Must I remind everyone that this referendum is about community - not consolidation?! Let's avoid any further cuts & improve our building so it matches the quality of the education offered within!

    Sarah Sauerwein, Holcombe, WI
  15. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 11, 2011 6:57 am
    I don't mean to offend. A good example is Birchwood Weyerhauser, but every consolidation example ends up the same. That consolidation happened in the early 90's. The problem is the facility, transportation, education costs all have to be immediately increased to accommodate the new students. Short term incentives expire, open enrollment pulls at your students, property values increase/recover, and 3 years later your in the exact same boat except... there is no other option but pay.
  16. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 07, 2011 2:12 pm
    a 10% state aid incentive for 5 years if consolidation occurs, which is now up to 15% more state aid for five years. The way we are going financially, we'd be lucky if Cornell is willing to consolidate with us when they could wait for us to go broke and they just take the students without us having a say. At least with consolidation we have to work together. I agree with Merlin, we may have a lot to learn from Cornell.
  17. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 07, 2011 2:10 pm
    Please provide examples because I doubt you have any. There have been very few consolidations in WI over the last few decades. Chetek/Weyerhaueser, Park Falls/Glidden, & Trevor/Wilmont. The end result is not more spending due to extra costs, spending goes up because inflation goes up, fixed costs go up, employee packages go up. If you remember from the consolidation study a few years ago, we would have saved over $650,000/year consolidating with Cornell. There was also cont....
  18. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 07, 2011 12:43 pm
    All good points so far. But my years of watching the trends and the consolidation of school after school, one thing is common among every single move to consolidate, the end result is much more expensive than the sum of the parts. Then it's just a matter of time before reimbursement/enrollment falls and now we're stuck with the bigger bill. Eau Claire is figuring this out and opening formerly closed schools to save costs. Having dozens of small schools is better & cheaper than one big one.
  19. Merlin
    Report Abuse
    Merlin - October 07, 2011 11:37 am
    This is the exact type of thinking that keeps pushing the cost of education through the roof. In CF and EC, the private schools all merged and it was a very good financial move and saved both systems from bankruptcy. Today both systems are on solid financial ground. It sounds an awful lot to me like the LH schools would learn a lot from Cornell.
  20. Merlin
    Report Abuse
    Merlin - October 07, 2011 11:35 am
    I see that the curriculum is one of the arguments to keep LH independent. Do you really think that there is that big of a difference between Cornell and LH? Both schools have to adhere to the state guidelines? Do you really think you won't have a say in that should they merge?

    It sounds like to me that people are putting their emotions ahead of common sense and dismissing completely what is probably a very good alternative to save money and get a good education in the meantime.
  21. SpendWisely
    Report Abuse
    SpendWisely - October 06, 2011 10:43 am
    The school should pay tuition to Cornell or another district to teach the high school students. The tuition would be less than what they receive in state aid and taxes per student from us. It would also provide flexibility in scheduling and the science room and gym would not need to be remodeled, saving us even more money. There are other options and the people should be provided all of them.
  22. info_only
    Report Abuse
    info_only - October 06, 2011 9:53 am
    Because Cornell has been added to this discussion, let me add some facts. Cornell's debt is at $2 million now, much lower than during the 07 consolidation discussion. Cornell's debt will be gone in 2015. Also, Cornell has a healthy fund balance, cash balance AND $2 MILLION set aside to cover post retirement health insurance. Pretty healthy balance sheet. If LH doesn't want to combine, don't blame it on Cornell's finances. Come to Cornell's annual meeting and see for yourself.
  23. RowBoat1
    Report Abuse
    RowBoat1 - October 04, 2011 6:28 pm
    Stinger doesn't live in Holcombe. I DO The school board has been cutting for the past ten years. Teachers have been part of the solution and take pride here. The school should remain independent and choose what children, including mine, should learn. The board looked at consolidating and said not now. Why shouldn't we hold on to our school? It's now time for us to help our school, not run. From Gilbertson's to local stores they spend $ here helping us. Vote YES keep our school OURS.
  24. Alleyoop
    Report Abuse
    Alleyoop - October 03, 2011 1:53 pm
    I have a unique perspective, I am one of those on the water and with kids in Lake Holcombe School. I've looked over the different scenarios and based on the debt we have and those of the surrounding schools we're better off on our own. That said, our enrollment is down and our state reimbursement has gone from 70% to 30% in the last 10 years even though the cost of running the school has gone down in that same time. Our board did their job. It's just a really bad time to have to ask for more.
  25. bluehillsmike
    Report Abuse
    bluehillsmike - October 03, 2011 10:39 am
    Mr Sting, I pay property taxes on Lake Holcombe and your assessment is correct. Holcombe should have merged with Cornell a few years ago; some 'locals' bullying at the Board meeting was what swayed the vote. This ship is sinking. They need to merge to survive. Enrollments in all of the N Chip Cty/Rusk Cty schools are plummeting as the job creation engine for up there, the housing industry (sawmills, windows, etc), is non existent. The lake owner already paying huge taxes doesn't need more.
Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick

Follow The Chippewa Herald

Search local business directory

Hint: Enter a keyword that you are looking for like tires, pizza or doctors or browse the full business directory.

Deals, Offers and Events



What is your reaction to the Boy Scouts of America accepting gay troop leaders?

View Results

Featured Businesses